‘The Simpsons’ landmark gay episode keeps it in the family

‘The Simpsons’ landmark gay episode keeps it in the family


Waylon Smithers has bagged a sugar daddy.

The buttoned-up “The Simpsons” character will get his first-ever boyfriend in the Fox animated show’s Nov. 21 episode.

And while it’s a historical moment for Smithers, it’s also a full-circle one for longtime series writer Rob LaZebnik, whose son, Johnny, inspired Smithers’ big, gay coming-out episode in 2016. Now, the duo has penned this upcoming installment, in which Smithers (voiced by Harry Shearer) partners up with billionaire fashion mogul Michael De Graaf (played by guest star Victor Garber).

“To be able to work with Johnny on this was, like, such a dream and to be able to see how truly funny and talented he is was just, you know, super fun and rewarding,” LA-based Rob, 59, recently told The Post of his son, who also lives in LA and has himself has carved a niche as a TV writer since he graduated from college in 2016.

Johnny, meanwhile, called the experience “spectacular and fulfilling,” as well as “an honor” to work with his supportive father.

“I know my dad is a comedy writer. I grew up with him — obviously, I know he’s a funny guy,” Johnny, 27, told The Post. “But actually getting to sit down and write jokes with him was so much fun. And there were some moments where I was like, ‘Dad, that’s disgusting — we can’t put that on television,’ which I didn’t expect to be saying because I’m usually the disgusting one.”

“We now have this piece of content that we put into the world together that is a combined brainpower of the two of us.”

Waylon Smithers (left, voiced by Harry Shearer) smooches his first boyfriend, fashion mogul Michael De Graaf (Victor Garber) in the upcoming Nov. 21 episode of “The Simpsons.”
The Simpsons ™ & © 20th Television

Of course, Smithers — who finds himself thrust into a globe-trotting, whirlwind romance with Garber’s fashionista — was already influenced by them both when he busted down his closet door in 2016’s touching Season 27 episode “Tom Collins,” which was penned by Rob as an homage to his gay son.

“I am a Midwestern guy, so I don’t tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve, but I thought, ‘What better way to tell my son I love him than to write a cartoon about it?’ ” he told The Post at the time, adding, “Sometimes TV can have a real impact on people’s thinking.”

Carrying on that sort of visibility, or “real impact,” is now especially important to Johnny, who has worked on animation projects including the Paramount+ “Rugrats” reboot — now in its second season — and the upcoming Disney Junior show “Eureka!” premiering sometime next year.

“So often, gay romances are a subplot or alluded to or shown in some kind of montage or as a punchline. And what I think I was really excited about, with this episode, we get to see — without spoiling too much — the beginning, middle and who knows how it ends of a gay relationship, of really getting into the nitty-gritty of how gay people date, how they meet, what it’s like,” he said. “That was really special to me to get to highlight characters who are not punchlines, who are fully formed.”

"The Simpsons" writer Rob LaZebnik, right, and his son Johnny
“The Simpsons” writer Rob LaZebnik, right, and his son Johnny
Courtesy of Rob and Johnny LaZebnik

Even Emmy-nominated “Alias” alum Garber, who is currently starring in the Canadian drama “Family Law,” personally felt the significance of taking on the animated role.

“I think it’s crucially important that these stories are acknowledged,” the 72-year-old actor told The Post. “I haven’t played a lot of gay characters, but every time I do it, it brings back certain feelings I had as a young actor where I couldn’t be gay.”

Garber — who married his longtime partner, artist Rainer Andreesen, in 2015 — added that, for him, the animated role “was kind of a reminder of how much things have changed and also how I’ve evolved.”

“In my journey to find self-acceptance, self-love, it’s a definite significant part of it.”

“The Simpsons” airs at 8 p.m. Sundays on Fox.





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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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